By Barbara Falconer Newhall
When I was a kid, Pentwater was not the place to be. The place to be was the beach, doing belly flops into the waves on nearby Lake Michigan. Or climbing Eagle Top. Or hunting turtles, or toads, or grasshoppers, or garter snakes, or chipmunks.
Why spend time in town when you could be in the woods or on the Big Lake where the real fun was?
Still, every once in a while, we kids had to put in some time in town. When my mother went into Pentwater for groceries, for example. Or to do the laundry. (She’d wash our clothes at the pay washing machine place, then hang everything on a clothesline out back to dry.)
Sometimes, of course, we’d go into town for a movie, followed by a chocolate soda at Ken Lite’s Drug Store.
And now today, the movie theater is gone. So is Lite’s. As for the washing machine place, it lost its reason for being long ago.
But Pentwater is still there, very much so. In fact, now that I am thoroughly grown up, I’m preferring Pentwater to the toads and grasshoppers of my 9-year-old self.
I like Pentwater’s old buildings of intricately laid, locally made yellow brick. I like the sailboats and yachts putting in on their way up from Chicago or down from Mackinac.
I like the smell of the lilac bushes, the oak and arbor vitae trees, the petunias and geraniums.
I like the Antler Bar, which I was not allowed to set foot in as a kid, but now serves a mean
hamburger and all the beer I can drink, since I’m not getting on the expressway (that’s what they call a freeway in Michigan), I’ll just be walking a few blocks to my B&B, which is charmingly situated in a 19th century wood frame house with tall, skinny old-fashioned windows and a startlingly steep stairway.
I like to frequent the antique shops in Pentwater, some of them gloriously funky, as well as the
shops offering arts and crafts produced by local folks, including some nifty weavings by my cousin Mary Helen.
I like just looking at Pentwater, being there. Pentwater inspires me to take pictures. I took a lot during a visit in May. (Go to my Flickr page to see more photos of Pentwater.)
Some Pentwater History:
- Originally a lumbering town, Pentwater village was formed in 1867. A number of its buildings, including the Methodist Church, were built in the 19th century with local yellow brick from the nearby Pentwater brick yard.
- Lake Michigan is really young — it was formed by glaciers something like 14,000 to 20,000
years ago. Winds can gust up to 110 mph on the lake, and more than forty ships have wrecked along Pentwater’s beaches over the years.
- In 1857, about 800 Ottawa, Chippewa, and Pottawatamie Native Americans were living in Pentwater. Today, according to the 2010 census, Pentwater’s total population is 857, 0.2% of which is Native American. That comes to two people, roughly.
- Why the name Pentwater? I never knew as a kid, and I didn’t need to know. Pentwater was Pentwater, a place unto itself and not in need of explication. But as an adult I got curious. I found out that local Indians apparently called it Pentwater because of Pentwater Lake’s “pent up waters.” Historically sand from Lake Michigan tended to fill in the natural channel between Pentwater Lake and the bigger lake, until a concrete channel was built to connect the two
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